Sir Winston Churchill’s paintings donated in lieu of inheritance tax bill
26 March 2015 by Sarah Rankin
“Never in the field of human conflict, has so much been owed by so many to so few.” I know this phrase off-by-heart because when my granddad was alive, he would repeat it over and over again. Although I was too young to know what he meant or who he was quoting. Now, I know it was Sir Winston Churchill, war-time leader, whose death 50 years ago was commemorated on January 15th this year. Last year, in May, his daughter and last survivor of his five children Lady Mary Soames died aged 91.
Not only was Sir Winston a Politician, prime minister, an officer in the British army, a historian and a writer but he was also a talented amateur artist. Lady Soames previously wrote that “painting literally grabbed” her father in 1915, when he was 41, “thereafter playing an increasingly and abiding role in his life, renewing the source of his great inner strength and enabling him to face storms, ride out depressions and rise above the tough passages in his political life”.
Following Lady Soames death, an inheritance tax bill was due by her executors and in lieu of this; the nation has now accepted a collection of 37 paintings by Sir Winston Churchill. The acceptance of this collection could have settled a £9,404,990 inheritance tax bill. The tax liability of the estate was less than this but the executors (with concurrence of her immediate family) have waived the difference.
During his lifetime, Churchill produced more than 500 artworks, many of them at Chartwell, his family home in Kent, continuing in to his 80’s. 35 of the paintings, which span from 1915 to the late 1950s, have been allocated to the National Trust and will remain at Chartwell, which opened to the public in 1966. One other will hang in the Houses of Parliament and the other is in the Churchill War Rooms, two places at the heart of Churchill’s life as a statesman and Politian.
The family have presented a further painting by Churchill to the National Trust in Lady Soames’ memory, ensuring the whole collection previously on loan from Lady Soames to Chartwell will remain there permanently. The committee has also accepted a Gold Cup won in 1961 by Churchill’s horse High Hat, which has been given to the National Horseracing Museum in Newmarket and a painting by Sir John Lavery of Churchill at his easel, a home for which will be announced later this year.
The acceptance in lieu scheme enables taxpayers to pay inheritance tax by transferring important works of art and other heritage objects into public ownership. The taxpayer is given full market value for the item, which is then allocated to a public museum, archive or library.
The scheme is a potentially great way of paying inheritance tax whilst at the same time, leaving an important cultural legacy in the public domain. Plus in the instance of Churchill, as the great man himself might have said, never has so much been left to so many, by so few!
If you would like to know more about any inheritance tax issues mentioned here, get in touch with our Wills & Probate team today at [email protected] or by calling 01206 835230